Get hot for lighting: how to make a chandelier out of light bulbs

Guest post by Hillz

I’m hot for lighting.
Built-in lighting is never adequate or cozy enough for me, so there are at least two additional lamps or lanterns in every room in our apartment to add ambiance.

Maybe I’m afraid of the dark, maybe I’m going blind, or maybe I’m just one of those people who like light fixtures and goes all soft walking into a place like Restoration Hardware.

I don’t have much money, but I’m hoarder a of unconventional items like burnt-out light bulbs, (no — really!) so I added up my scraps to make my most recent fixture: an upcycled light bulb chandelier!

Wanna make one?

What you’ll need:

  • Dead light bulbs (30+ small, large, colored — whatever you want!)
  • Fishing line
  • Dental floss
  • 1 7-inch 45 rpm record (the kind with the big hole in the middle) Note: I used a scratched record that was not playable. Do not use playable or valuable records for this project.
  • Twine
  • Jute
  • Small dowel or skewer
  • Hot glue and hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Light cord
  • 1 working light bulb

What to do:

Gather your bulbs. I used about 35 for this project, because I didn’t want any of the lit bulb to be showing. The more there are, the better, I say, but play around with what you like the look of best.

The most tedious part: I used dental floss on the white bulbs and fishing line on the clear bulbs. I securely knotted on about three feet of floss or line to each bulb. (Note: I did end up cutting off a lot in the end, but it’s better to have too much than not enough.)

It can be hard to make a firm knot. A little hot glue helps keep the twine affixed to the bulb, if you need it. Cut loose ends.

Now it’s time to start working on the top.

I was lucky to find this neat clear record, though a traditional black one would look good, too.

Cut the dowel or skewer(s) into six pieces, each about two and a half inches long.

On one side of the record, you’re going to build a kind of lattice to later string up the bulbs.
With hot glue, attach one dowel piece like this:

Next, string the light cord through the record. Make sure the bulb is coming out of the “bottom.”

Now that the cord is in place, finish building the lattice. Attach another piece of dowel.

Then two more on the outside.

With the cord wedged between them, securely attach two more dowels on top of the others. If you make a mess with hot glue, that’s OK, since this will all be covered up/not visible in the end. Avoid getting glue directly on the cord.

Because there will will be weight hanging from the cord, I attached a piece of light rope to prevent the record from slipping down.

Now, it’s time to start adding the bulbs. With the light rope, I determine how far above the cord light the record would rest (and, how far the bulbs would dangle… I decided on about three feet.)

Thread the floss or fishing line from the bottom of the record, adjusting its length to your liking and knotting it securely on the lattice above. Tie on the bulbs so they drape naturally around the main bulb.

Note: Both fishing line and dental floss can slip when knotted. This can be good, if you want to make changes later, (bringing a bulb down, for instance,) or not so good, (say, if a bulb is too low.)

The inside layer of bulbs won’t be seen much, depending on how many you use, so just make sure things are even. As you string the bulbs, the floss and fishing line may criss-cross and things may get a bit knotted. That’s OK, because we’ll cove it up later, but don’t let it get out of control.

DJ Husband helped me out in the beginning of this process, before his arm got sore. I later used a horizontal bamboo rod to hang the cord from so I could assemble more easily.

While you’re working, it’s a good idea to periodically look at it with the light on. The bulbs will be a bit re-arrangeable forever, but get a sense of what it looks like all lit up as you go. This photo was taken before I’d added many of the clear bulbs.

Play around with things until all the bulbs are at heights you’re pleased with. Try not to be driven completely crazy by the clink, clink, clink of the bulbs as they brush each other.

When you’ve strung all your bulbs, gather the excess dental floss/fishing line and knot it securely several times. Cut loose ends.

Now, you’re ready to add the jute.

I started on the outside of the label and spiraled the jute in, attaching it to the record with hot glue. I started the process on the floor, thinking it would be easiest, but went back to hanging soon enough.

Hanging it helped keep the floss and fishing line from getting too criss-crossed.

I kept winding and winding, attaching with glue. I wound all the way down the cord and fishing line and dental floss, stopping about six inches from where the bulbs began. Secure your ends well with glue.

Make sure you clean up any hot glue messes with a pair of small craft scissors.

In the background below, you’ll see the first light bulb chandelier I made a few years ago, using blue and white bulbs, and a book cover in place of a record.

To make the top of the chandelier more attractive, I also wrapped it in jute, though since it’ll be way up high, no one will see much of it.

Move the bulbs around until they’re even and …. you’re done!

Turn it on, put your feet up, and enjoy.

Comments on Get hot for lighting: how to make a chandelier out of light bulbs

  1. You mean I’m not the only one who collects burnt out lightbulbs?! WIN!

    Thanks for the great idea – I had a thought along these lines, but slightly lazier:

    The light bulbs I have are quite a bit smaller (they came from stage lighting) so I was just going to get one of those lamp bases that’s clear glass and fill it up with them.

    But since I haven’t actually done it yet, maybe I’ll do this instead! 🙂

  2. I’m glad ya’ll like it!
    McKean: Yes. There is only one working bulb – in the center.
    Kathryn: Depending on the wattage of the working bulb, it can be bright! But I used a 40 watt in mine, just to create a bit of a glow.

  3. Slightly related to hoarding burnt out light bulbs…my aunt’s sister was in her late 50z when we discovered she thought that light bulbs don’t ‘burn out’, but instead, get full of dark, because of the dark spot bulbs get when burnt out. She actually thinks they ‘suck dark’ instead of emitting light. She’s not an idiot, she’s a highly trained nurse, yet for some reason, she does not get how light bulbs work. I nearly died laughing when the story was relayed to me…

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